The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if He were going farther. But they urged Him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them.
When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him, and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when He broke the bread.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
When He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
A Christian prayed this prayer every morning: “Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is.”
One day he found himself on a bus when a rather distressed looking man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this man chose to sit next to the Christian.
The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could get off the bus. But then suddenly the man next to him burst into tears. And he cried out in a loud voice, “I need to be saved. I'm a lost sinner and I need Jesus. Won't somebody tell me how to be saved?”
He turned to the Christian and pleaded, “Can you show me how to be saved?” The Christian immediately bowed his head and prayed, “Lord, is this a sign?”
Are you looking for a ‘sign’ to start witnessing?
Acts 1:8 records Jesus’ final words to His disciples just before His ascension: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
There has always been a clear understanding that the Christian Church has a duty and a mission to take the Good News of Jesus Christ into the outside world.
Of course, we are to be involved in social issues. Caring for the poor, the lonely and the hurting are important, but our priority outside of Church buildings has always been, and must remain proclaiming the message of hope to be found in Jesus.
But what do we mean by the words ‘Christian witness?’
One of the first examples in the New Testament is the ministry of John the Baptist.
John 1:7-8 says “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
Twice in John 1, John the Baptist actually points to Jesus and says “Look, the Lamb of God.” And in verse 34 he says “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
In the book of Acts the word “testify” is used often to describe both the mission and the task of the Church. The Church then, and now, has many different ministries or ‘task teams’ which represent and witness on behalf of God, but there is no doubt that there is a need for a verbal witness of the grace of God too. We need to go and tell people about the hope that is to be found in Jesus.
Has Christ touched your life? If He has, others need to know.
The witness of a Godly life is important. If you are a Christian, then you need to know that the world is watching you and the examples you set by your character and behaviour, but they need to hear these words from your lips too: “Let me tell you about what God has done for me.”
The early disciples witnessed continually to the unsaved because of the irrepressible joy of sharing life’s greatest discovery. Acts 8:4 says “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
The next few verses pick up the story: “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.”
These early Christians had discovered in a refreshing and life-changing manner that the eternal God is a God of love. This had been made known to them through the life, teachings, death, resurrection, and constant presence of Jesus Christ.
And they simply could not contain the good news. There was an irrepressible joy in their hearts, and telling the good news was a proper and an appropriate response to lordship of Jesus Christ.
Many Christians will say that witnessing is not their calling or their gift, but this is not true. We are all called and equipped to go and tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
The earliest Christian disciples understood and believed that Jesus had a right to command their time and their energies, and they took to heart and took seriously the words of Jesus which Matthew quotes at the end of his gospel: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
They understood their primary function to be that of proclaiming the wonderful love of God.
They had no fear of getting tongue-tied or of embarrassing themselves, because they trusted and believed the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is so sad when Christians back down from the countless opportunities God gives them to witness to others because they feel under-qualified.
How many times have we read about or heard about the power of the Spirit within us? Why then, do we struggle to believe it?
Those early disciples of Jesus were vividly aware of the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and this enabled them to overcome their natural timidity and fear. Without hesitation they testified to and proclaimed their assurance that God had raised Jesus from the dead and that He was a living Saviour.
They were motivated by a personal conviction of the world’s deep need for salvation through Jesus Christ. There was a real sense of urgency in their witness, and we can only admire their bravery in the face of some fierce opposition in those early days.
So how are we to follow suit? What can we learn from them, and how do we tell others today?
If you are a Christian, then you have a personal experience of receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. That is always the best place to start.
What led you to making the decision that you made? What was your life like before coming to Christ, and how is He changing it now?
You don’t need to be a theologian or a Bible scholar to talk to others about Jesus. All you need to share with them are the ‘before and after’ pictures of your life.
What is God doing in your life right now? Do you find it a challenge, as well as a joy to be a Christian? Tell others about that too. Be honest about your joys and your struggles. Just be yourself, and don’t try to pretend to be someone you’re not.
And don’t think that it is your responsibility to bring others into the Kingdom. That’s what God does, through the work and conviction of the Spirit. Our task is merely to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
The important thing is to be obedient to God’s call on your life.
You have a story to tell about who God is, what He has done and what He is doing in your life – share that story.
I don’t know what it is about the modern world, but generally speaking the urgency we find in the early Church seems to be lacking nowadays.
We have become apologetic and don’t want to upset people.
The Church is failing in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. Salvation in Christ is no longer the most important thing in the world today.
Now it’s all about pursuing happiness and being free to be yourself.
And we’ve bought into that lie, and satan is absolutely delighted.
His mission is to deflect the world and the Church’s attention away from the need for a Saviour.
But if you think about it, the awful truth of the consequences of rejecting Jesus should be more than enough to motivate us.
There has to be an increased urgency on our part to spread the Gospel.
When you look around and see people that are on a one way trip to hell, that should motivate you.
Charles Spurgeon said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. If they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
Does the reality of lost people around us urge us on, or are we simply complacent? Or even worse, are we too embarrassed to share our faith?
If we believe in the reality of the place called hell, we should have great compassion for those who have never heard about Jesus, or have heard but have stubbornly refused to believe.
We should be praying that God will raise up workers to reach out to them, and at the same time you shouldn’t turn and run when you realise that you are one of those workers you’ve been praying for.
Each one of us should be willing to play a part in reaching out to those who are still lost.
Are you willing to do what is necessary to reach the lost in your world, your community, and your family?
If we have a correct understanding of the judgment to come and hell to follow for those who reject Christ, then we should be willing to do whatever is necessary to do the job.
There is no greater calling for a Christian than to bring another sinner to the foot of the Cross.
William Booth, the man who founded the Salvation Army, said that he wished he could have his soldiers exposed to hell for twenty-four hours. If they saw the consequences of rejecting Christ they would be better motivated.
Jesus is the only one who can provide bread for the soul and who can meet the deepest need of the human heart.
The two men He met on the road to Emmaus that we read about earlier were lost, lonely and confused, but the moment Jesus came along, revealed Himself to them, explained the Scriptures and broke bread with them, everything changed.
They ran back to Jerusalem with the news that He was alive, and in their own words, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They had a renewed passion for the Gospel of Jesus, and they were determined to share it.
What about you? Have you become stagnant in your faith? Is it too hard, too confusing or too terrifying to tell someone you love about the love of Christ?
My purpose today is not to criticise anyone, because we are all guilty of not doing as much as we can for Him.
But we can come to the Table today with repentant hearts, asking for a refreshing and a renewal in our walk with Christ.
He understands our fears and our reluctance, but He is also willing to forgive us for our disobedience.
Not only that – He waits to fill us afresh with His Spirit. So come to the Table.
Isaiah 59:1 promises us “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.”
Whatever it is which is preventing you from witnessing to others about the love of Christ, give it to Him today.
Have we been content to just try to live a good life and let that be our only witness? How long has it been since you gave in to a deep personal concern for someone you love, and told them about Jesus?
If you are prepared to take that leap of faith, then the Holy Spirit will give you the words you need when you need them.
Don’t underestimate your personal experience with Jesus, and the truth of the Bible, undergirded by the power of the Spirit.
It is the teaching of the Bible that God expects each of us to be a personal witness.
We simply have to tell others of the good news of God’s love and His desire to save the lost, and then trust the gospel and the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
What kind of a witness for Christ are we?